By Paul Courson
There has been little improvement in religious freedom worldwide but some positive changes were seen in Turkey and Vietnam, according to an annual State Department survey of nearly 200 countries.
Secretary of State John Kerry, a former U.S. senator who helped push the law mandating the original report 15 years ago, helped announce the findings on Monday in the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.
"This report is a clear-eyed, objective look at the state of religious freedom around the world. And when necessary, yes, it does directly call out some of our close friends, as well as some countries with whom we seek stronger ties."
Government repression in China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia has kept all three countries on a list the report calls "Countries of Particular Concern."
By Gabriella Schwarz
President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday nuclear aggression from North Korea has further isolated the region and vowed to use all means to deter further provocations.
"If Pyongyang thought its recent threats would drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States or somehow garner the North international respect, today is further evidence that North Korea has failed again," Obama said during a joint press conference with the two leaders. "The United States and the Republic of Korea are as united as ever ... North Korea is more isolated than ever."
Obama said North Korea's manufactured crises will no long elicit concessions and committed to protecting the United States and its allies.
"The United States is fully prepared and capable of defending ourselves and our allies with the full range of capabilities available, including the deterrence provided by our conventional and nuclear forces," Obama said. "The commitment of the United States to the security of the Republic of Korea will never waver."
President Park, South Korea's first female president, said she will "by no means tolerate North Korea's threats and provocations, which have recently been escalating further."FULL STORY
By CNNMoney's Charles Riley
The Pentagon has accused China of trying to extract sensitive information from U.S. government computers, the latest in a series of rhetorical skirmishes between the two countries on the issue of cyberattacks.
The frank assessment, made in an annual report to U.S. lawmakers on Chinese military capabilities, is the harshest and most detailed set of accusations made thus far by the Obama administration.
"In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military," the report said.
The Pentagon said China is carrying out the attacks in an effort to extract information from "diplomatic, economic and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs." The intellectual property and data is likely being used to bolster China's own defense and high tech industries, the report saidFULL STORY
A man with a "big heart", his sister says, who traveled to North Korea frequently. So, who is Kenneth Bae, and why has North Korea sentenced the Korean-American Kenneth Bae to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea? CNN's Jill Dougherty reports.
By Jethro Mullen, CNN
If North Korea continues with its controversial missile and nuclear tests, it "will move closer" to its objective of reaching the United States with nuclear weapons, according to a Pentagon report.
During recent heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang repeatedly threatened the possibility of nuclear attacks against the United States and South Korea, prompting questions on the progress of its weapons program.
North Korea's secretiveness has made it hard for Western intelligence agencies to gauge exactly what is going on inside its research facilities.
Many clues have come from the regime's large-scale tests such as the long-range rocket launch in December and the underground nuclear detonation in February.FULL STORY
By Jethro Mullen and K.J. Kwon, CNN
A North Korean court has sentenced a U.S. citizen to 15 years of hard labor, saying he committed "hostile acts" against the secretive state.
The country's Supreme Court delivered the sentence against Pae Jun Ho, known as Kenneth Bae by U.S. authorities, on Tuesday, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Thursday.
The KCNA article said Bae a Korean-American, was arrested November 3 after arriving as a tourist in Rason City, a port in the northeastern corner of North Korea. It didn't provide any details about the "hostile acts" he is alleged to have committed.
Following the sentence, his case could get caught up in the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, which spiked recently after the North carried out its latest underground nuclear test in February and as the United States and South Korea held joint military drills in the region.
The intensity of the menacing rhetoric from North Korea appears to have subsided recently, and the U.S.-South Korean drills finished this week, removing one source of friction. But Kim Jong Un's regime, which has demanded that North Korea be recognized as a nuclear power, remains unpredictable.
The United States has seen the reports of Bae's sentencing, a State Department official said, and is working to confirm them through the Swedish Embassy.FULL STORY
By Elise Labott
After weeks of fiery rhetoric, military saber rattling and threats against the United States and South Korea, North Korea seems downright quiet and willing to dial back the tension.
Fears Kim Jong Un would test a long-range missile have given way to an easing of his daily war threats, and North Korea has produced a list of conditions for dialogue.
In exchange for returning talks, North Korea wants the lifting of U.N. sanctions, the end of the U.S.-South Korea military drills, the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear strike capabilities from the region and a halt on criticism of the North. It also wants a South Korean apology for offending its leadership.
Still, even the subtle shift in tone is an improvement to the war footing Pyongyang was on just weeks ago.
So what gives?
From Jill Dougherty
The Korean-American who has been held in North Korea since November entered the country on a valid tourist visa, a senior U.S. official told CNN on Monday.
The U.S. State Department on Monday publicly called on the North to release Kenneth Bae on humanitarian grounds.
Spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters that Swedish diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in North Korea because Washington has no diplomatic relations with the North, were able to visit Bae, a U.S. citizen, on Friday.
Some Americans have previously crossed the border without a visa, either knowingly or by mistake, but in this case, the official said, "This was somebody who was a tour operator who has been there in the past and has a visa to go to the North."
By Jim Clancy
A week of critical diplomacy is set to begin in Washington, Beijing and Pyongyang. But the sides are so far apart, at least in public declarations, it is impossible to predict where any diplomatic efforts will lead.
North Korea continues to hold fast to the position that its nuclear and ballistic missile programs are non-negotiable. Pyongyang's official news agency says the North wants U.N. Security Council sanctions lifted. The sanctions were put in place after North Korea launched a three-stage rocket last December that put a satellite in orbit. More sanctions were added when the North conducted its third underground nuclear test in February.
By Pam Benson
The intelligence community is working on a new assessment of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile program, according to the nation's top intelligence official.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced the broad effort during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday.
He sought to set the record straight following controversy over a Pentagon intelligence assessment of Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities that surfaced unexpectedly last week amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.
In that case, an unclassified part of an otherwise secret analysis concluded with moderate confidence that North Korea could now deliver a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile.